PREMIER LEAGUE RELEGATION: REASSESSED
As we break for the internationals nearing the quarter point of the Premier League season, the table is starting to take shape at both the top and the bottom.
Here we focus on some of the early relegation candidates and assess their chances of survival this campaign.
Sheffield United – 20th – 1 Point:
One team maybe many didn’t think would struggle so much early on is Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United.
The Blades were brilliant last term, finishing 9th on their return to the Premier League after a 12-year absence, but are yet to win so far and seem to be suffering from the cliched ‘second season syndrome’.
Just one point to show for in their first eight games, that coming in a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Fulham.
In all fairness to United they have had a torrid run of games playing Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in their last five, so it may be too early to judge them.
A major concern for Wilder’s side is a lack of goals, with a poor return of just four goals in eight games, with £23m signing Rhian Brewster yet to score for the Blades in the league.
The United faithful will be hoping for an upturn in form after the break, but with more tough fixtures against Leicester City, a high-flying Southampton and Manchester United to come, chances of relegation may start to become more concrete at Bramall Lane.
Burnley – 19th – 2 Points:
A surprise but not a surprise in a way to see Sean Dyche and Burnley struggling at the foot of the Premier League this season.
Burnley have performed exceedingly well year on year under Dyche, since their return to the top flight back in 2016, finishing 10th last season and reaching Europa League qualification after a seventh placed finish back in the 2017/18 season.
This however is their worst start to a Premier League season through eight games by quite some way (five points) since their return, registering just two points so far.
The Clarets were extremely quiet in the summer transfer window, with the capture of Dale Stephens from Brighton being the only notable first team signing.
Realistically with Dyche having such little backing from the Burnley board every season, at some point you just felt Burnley couldn’t keep impressing English football fans every year.
I think Burnley are one of the teams who are being affected from not having that extra boost from the 12th man and this term could potentially see them return to the Championship, a league they are no strangers to.
West Bromwich Albion – 18th – 3 Points:
One of the relegated sides next and it’s West Bromwich Albion who have started slowly on their return to the promised land under manager Slavan Bilic.
The Baggies didn’t have the best of form post lockdown but still managed to gain automatic promotion on the last day last season, courtesy of a 2-2 draw against QPR and a helping hand from Barnsley, who beat fellow promotion rivals Brentford.
Still no win for West Brom with their three points coming from draws against Brighton, above mentioned Burnley and that cracking 3-3 draw against Chelsea at The Hawthorns back in September.
But the pressure is on the Croat and reports are suggesting he is close to the sack, after just over a season in the Black Country.
It will be interesting if he does get the axe, to see who the replacement could be to help kickstart the Baggies season.
Players like Matheus Pereira and Karlan Grant have impressed and have Premier League quality that if honed, could help West Brom solidify a place in the top flight again next term.
Fulham – 17th – 4 Points:
The last side on the list is Fulham. Just a few weeks ago, bookmakers Paddy Power were already paying out on The Cottagers relegation, and they currently sit just outside the bottom three.
The start of the season was very doom and gloom for Scott Parker in his first full season as a top flight manager, picking up just one point in their first six outings.
But there have been signs of improvement.
A solid first win against West Brom at Craven Cottage followed by a great performance at West Ham, which was only lost due to a late Tomas Soucek goal followed by a woeful panenka blooper by Ademola Lookman deep into injury time, has proved this.
Fulham were expected to be struggling this season and the masses were correct in thinking that, but I wouldn’t write off the West London outfit just yet.
You don’t need to look any further than Aleksander Mitrovic and Lookman to see that there are some top-quality players in this side.
Whether Parker and Fulham have got enough about them to stay up this season remains to be seen, but I’m sure they won’t roll over and rocket back down to the Championship like many expect.
18th – Sheffield United
19th - Fulham
20th – West Bromwich Albion